PESHAWAR (AFP) - At least 21 militants and a soldier were killed Friday during an ongoing military offensive designed to eliminate the Taliban from northwest Pakistan, military officials said. Sixteen militants were killed by security forces in Maidan, the home town of pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad in Lower Dir, the paramilitary Frontier Corps said without giving any other details. A daily military update about the operation said five militants and one soldier were killed during search and clearance operations in Swat, the neighbouring northwest district where the Taliban first rose up in 2007. A Taliban spokesman on Thursday denied claims that Maulana Fazlullah, the architect of an uprising in Swat to enforce Sharia law, had been wounded and threatened to unleash renewed holy war. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said earlier this month the military had eliminated extremists and government statistics show that 385,000 of 1.9 million civilians who were displaced by the fighting have returned. But skirmishes have continued, raising fears that the Taliban escaped into the mountains and will return, as after previous military offensives. Pakistan says more than 1,800 militants and 166 security personnel have been killed since April but the death tolls are impossible to verify independently. Pakistan launched the offensive last April, under hefty pressure from the US to clamp down on militants who advanced from Swat into the neighbouring district of Buner, further south towards Islamabad. APP adds: Five more terrorists were killed while six suspects were rounded up in clean-up operations being carried out by the security forces in Swat and Malakand. According to ISPR, during the last 24 hours, one soldier embraced martyrdom in crossfire with the terrorists while the security forces have demolished various houses of terrorists in the area. Reports revealed that security forces conducted search operation at Surgulai and Syed Piranda Baba Ziarat and killed 2 terrorists, demolished 2 houses of the militants at Akhun Kalle and Garoh and apprehended one terrorist. In search operation at Sambat near Khawzakhela, one terrorist was killed while security forces apprehended 4 suspected terrorists from a house at Kankaro near Gulijabba. In an encounter at Allah Dand near Thana, one soldier was martyred and 2 terrorists were killed while another apprehended. A total of 214,772 cash cards, 13 trucks of rations and relief goods were distributed among the IDPs in Malakand on Thursday.